The train gets underway. As night falls, porters come around and magically convert our seats into beds. They make them up with sheets and light blankets. After a peaceful night of sleep, they come back in the morning to wake us up, and convert our beds back into seats. Another porter comes around with a cart offering breakfast. When we arrive, we disembark rested and ready for the adventures ahead…
Ahh, I think back wistfully to that wonderful night train from Bangkok to Chiangmai in Thailand, as I toss and turn in a skinny little plastic bed on the fabled “Marrakesh Express.” Our train left Tangier at 00:05 for the 10-hour trip south. No one made our beds and no one offered food (they did, however, come around with free bottles of cold water when the journey began). Each sleeping compartment has 4 bunkbeds and no seats. Given that it only costs $37 for a bed, we bought the entire cabin to have some privacy. This had the added advantage of giving us some space to keep our luggage, and an extra sheet to insulate myself from the plastic. After daybreak, many of the passengers hung out in the long corridor because the rooms are so cramped. There, we could enjoy the passing scenery until our arrival.
We arrived in Marrakech exhausted, feeling like we were jet lagged. Still, the sleeper train is probably the best way to make the long north-south trek, unless you want to hire a driver with a nice van or stop in Casablanca for the night. With either option you spend a lot of money and lose an entire day traveling. Given that there is so much to see in Marrakech and Yvonne’s work limits her tourist time, the extra day was very valuable to us.
You know how when you’re really tired, a simple pleasure can seem like miracle of human existence? After checking into our hotel, we walked across the street to a clean, airy cafe. We enjoyed– hands down– the best coffee, croissants, and fresh orange juice available anywhere on the planet.
Fortified, we set off to spend a couple of hours in the enormous medina of Marrakech.